I'm finding that the best time of day to explore a city is not, in fact, in the day, but when the lights go down and darkness settles in.
There's far less traffic, far less people, and I find that you really get a feel for a place when you're immersed in the cloaks of the city's shadows.
Last night, my friend Marissa and I went on a little night trip to San Francisco. Despite the surprised responses that we were driving allllll the way to the city for dinner (guys, it's a mere 23 miles from Walnut Creek), we went anyway, staying patient in the Bay Bridge traffic and rolling the windows down as we wound our way through the steep streets to Fisherman's Wharf.
There's this favorite spot of mine there that I take nearly every visitor to whenever they're in the city.
Nestled on the corner of Beach Street, The Buena Vista (Spanish for "good view") is the warmest, coziest, most iconic San Franciscan café that epitomizes my favorite parts of San Francisco history.
"A beacon of warmth and conviviality on the San Francisco waterfront, The Buena Vista continues to serve belly-warming libations and hearty meals that were originally catered to fishermen, dock workers, lumber brokers, sailors, cannery workers, and other City folk."
It remains so. The Bay view is still spectacular, the atmosphere is forever inviting and warm, and their iconic Irish Coffees still stand out amongst all others.
The day was foggy (how expectant), we found a parking spot right on the corner and when we walked through the old doors, there was a corner section at the bar meant for two just begging for our weary bums to sit at.
Meant to be?
We enjoyed our hearty and belly warming meals (clam chowder in a San Francisco sourdough bread bowl and one delightful Irish Coffee for me), spent some time walking along the waterfront, and noticing the emptiness of the city at night, drove over to Coit Tower to explore some more.
We had Joni Mitchell's California playing loud on the stereo, wind ripping through our hair, and we got to see some pretty sweet sights way up there at the Tower.
Sometimes I forget how crazy beautiful San Francisco is, and I'm glad to have found a friend who's as willing and eager to drive 23 miles for dinner and explore parts of the city past dark.
(just so long as we're being safe)
Like Journey sings it best, the best time of day in San Francisco is "when the lights go down in the city, and the sun shines on the Bay..."